Some friends are always there for you

Column by Craig Marshall Smith


Three of my best friends are appliances. The washing machine, the dryer, and the dishwasher. I have thought about this. They're dependable, focused, and they're always on time.

They leave me alone when I want to be left alone, and when I need them, they are Johnny-on-the-spot, especially the washing machine. I do a good job of spotting my shirts with salad dressing, and the washing machine is always on standby.

I can call on them any time of day or night

I look forward to doing my laundry, and I look forward to doing my dishes. But it wasn't always this way.

When I went away to college and got my first apartment, I didn't have any appliances, other than a hot plate, and a refrigerator that sounded like Charles Laughton.

I hand-washed the dishes. And I had to take all of my laundry to something called a laundromat, also called “washaterias.” The laundromats were uniformly heinous. If you've ever had to use one, you know what I mean. I could spend half of my column allowance on laundromats, but please do me a favor, and just reminisce about them, so I can get back to my three friends.

Hand-washing the dishes wasn't much fun, so the pots and pans and plates waited on the tarmac, sometimes for days. I will admit to weeks. I would just rinse what I needed. Not any more.

I run the dishwasher about every other day. And the washer and dryer too. I like to do laundry. Thundercats, I'll do yours.

I am going to try my best to explain this. I am not always dependable, focused, and on time. I miss the off ramp. The signs say “push” and I pull. Like Dave Mathews said, I “fall aside, stumbling down drunken roads, I find myself more and more mistaking myself for someone else.”

Washing machines don't stumble. That's why I like mine. I can program it, and it sticks to the program. I don't stick to the program, so I admire anyone or anything that can.

Keep this under your hat. I'll do a load of laundry just before bedtime just so that I can hear the washing machine going through its cycles, directly below me.

One day the builder's grade dishwasher that came with the house decided to explode. A repairman arrived and on his way up the driveway asked what kind it was. When I told him, he turned, said, “Get a new one, buddy,” and left.

I have wood flooring and the explosion damaged the wood. I had to vacate for three days while it was sanded and re-finished. I went to Mesa Verde and listened to the guide. There was no mention of appliances. The Anasazi did not have Maytag.

Maybe I wouldn't like to do laundry as much as I do if I had a family, and had to get the stains out of Craig Jr.'s Old Navy jeans.

Here's another thing: I fold. I am one hell of a folder. I can fold a hand towel like a trained hand towel folder. That goes for bath towels and sheet towels.

Whatever it is about fulfilling certain tasks that have a beginning, middle, and end, it feels good. I have made some kind of progress on a day when maybe otherwise I have drifted, or overworked a painting, or faltered with a column.

My first college apartment was managed by Sam Sing and Jon Wong, who operated a little laundry on Sawtelle Boulevard in West Los Angeles. I had them do my shirts, light starch. They came back to me, folded impeccably, with a cardboard insert, and a paper ribbon around them. Laundry can be very beautiful.

Maybe I like to do laundry simply because I succeed with it.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at


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